Tag Archives | equipment

In My Toolbox: Gear for Traveling Canning Classes and Demos

Gear for Canning Events - Food in Jars

One of the things that often surprises people is the fact that when I go on the road to promote my books, I bring everything I need for my classes and demonstrations with me. While I occasionally find myself teaching in spaces that have fully stocked kitchens, more often that not, I’m working at farmers markets, bookstores, and other impromptu venues.

The upside is that one quick stop at a grocery store and I have everything I need to make a recipe from my book. The downside is that I do not travel light. Happily, it’s a trade-off I am most willing to make.

Pots for Canning - Food in Jars

The Cookware

For Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, I’m traveling with two pieces of cookware. A low, wide, non-reactive pan in which to cook the preserves and a small canner. When I was promoting Preserving by the Pint, I swapped a 12-inch skillet in for the larger pot.

I have a few different pieces that serve as the preserving pan, but my very favorite is low, wide 8 quart All-Clad stockpot pictured above. I’ve had a version of this pot for nearly seven years now and it is beloved in my kitchen. I was never able to take mine on the road with me, because the model I had didn’t work with an induction cooktop. Thankfully, the kind folks at All-Clad took pity on me this year and sent me one that works with my traveling induction burner.

My trusty 4th burner pot serves as small batch canning pot during my traveling demos. If I need a larger canning pot for on-the-road classes, I make arrangements to borrow one, as I just can’t fit a giant stockpot into my suitcase (one has to draw the line somewhere).

Induction Burner - Food in Jars

The Cooktop

Outside of the cookware, the thing that takes up the most space in my suitcase of canning gear is my burner. I travel with a portable induction burner because all it needs to work is an electrical outlet. I’ve had two of these Duxtop burners for the last five years and they’ve been incredibly reliable and sturdy (though sadly, one did get destroyed on a recent flight. The TSA opened my suitcase, didn’t secure the wrappings around the burner well, and it cracked).

I also make sure to tuck a short extension cord into my travel bag. This one is a ten footer, which is enough to reach an outlet in most situations (and if I know that I’m going to need more length than that, I make arrangements ahead of time).

various tools - Food in Jars

Tools and Utensils

The rest of the gear is an assortment of small tools and utensils, chosen for their ability to pack small and work hard.

Oh, and they’re not pictured (because I left them in Portland), but I also always tuck a pair of Blossom Trivets into my suitcase as well. All this gear makes for a jangly suitcase, but having this stuff with me means that I always have what I need.

Disclosure: In case it wasn’t clear earlier in the post, All-Clad gave me the 8 quart pot you see pictured above in exchange for promotional consideration. I bought everything else featured in this post. 

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Giveaway: Big Mouth Flat Pack Funnels

Big Mouth Funnels

In my years as a canner, I’ve tried nearly every available wide mouth funnel on the market. I own nearly a dozen different models made in materials ranging from plastic, to tempered glass, to stainless steel. One thing all these funnels have in common is that they’re bulky (much of my collection lives in a wicker basket in the living room, because there’s no room for them in the kitchen).

Big Mouth Funnels

Happily, Robin Bristow, a designer based in Australia, has recently developed a funnel designed to fit in kitchens with even the most limited cabinet space. Called the Big Mouth Funnel, this tool comes in two sizes and packs absolutely flat for easy storage.

Big Mouth Funnels

The small size is perfect for filling salt shakers, pepper mills, and spice jars, while the larger size can handle all manner of hefty jars. I’m planning on using one for trips to Whole Foods when I’m buying from the bulk section. I’ve often taken conventional wide mouth funnels with me to help dispense from bin to jar, but having a flat pack funnel in my kit will make the job even easier.

Big Mouth Funnels

I will say that I’m a little wary of using these funnels when filled up hot jars with jam or chutney just off the boil. They make no claims that they’re heatproof and so I plan to continue to use my traditional funnels for anything that is piping hot. Even setting them aside for those tasks, I can see them becoming invaluable over time.

Thanks to Robin and Big Mouth Funnels, I have ten pairs of flat pack funnels to give away! Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a kitchen or canning tool that you wish you could reinvent or redesign.
  2. Comments will close at 5 pm east coast time on Saturday, October 5, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted on Sunday, October 6, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Big Mouth Funnel sent me a set of their funnels to try and is also providing the ten for this giveaway. My opinions remain my own. 

Giveaway: Blossom Trivet from Spice Ratchet

trivet

It’s been nearly nine months since I switched from using a round cake cooling rack for my canning rig to the silicone trivet you see above and I wouldn’t go back for anything. I love the trivet at canning rack with all my heart, particularly since it doesn’t impart any funky particles into the water and looks just as good now as the first day I got it.

In fact, the only minor issue I’ve had is that when it’s left in a pot of boiling water with no jars holding it down, it can sometimes float. However, a quick maneuver with a jar lifter and it’s back in place and ready to lift and pad the jars again.

Awhile back, I got an email from the spokesperson at Spice Ratchet, the company that makes the Blossom Trivet, delighted with the new use I’d found for their product. They offered to sponsor a giveaway, to help spread the trivet love even further. I have five (5) trivets to give away to a handful of lucky winners.

If you’re interested in entering the giveaway, here’s what you do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your canning rig. Are you a traditional canning pot user? Or have you cobbled together something more interesting?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, September 14, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Saturday, September 15, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Spice Ratchet is providing five Blossom Trivets for this giveaway. They sent me an assortment of their mini blossoms for testing purposes. I’ve not been paid to host this giveaway and my opinions remain my own.

Finding Equipment: Fishs Eddy in New York City

Canning section at Fishs Eddy in New York.

One of the joys of living in Philadelphia is that it’s possible to do things like pop up to New York for the day. Yesterday, I did just that.

I went up to spend some time at Korin, a store that sells Japanese knives and tableware, to learn a bit about those knives and the art of sharpening (more about that on Monday). While I was there, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm February weather to explore the city a bit.

During my rambling walk, I came across Fishs Eddy. I’ve known of this store for years now, but never managed to fit a visit into previous NYC visits. Happily, I had few time constraints yesterday and so was able to pop in. What did I see almost immediately upon setting foot in the store? A thoroughly stocked selection of canning jars! They carry nearly every jar in production, save my beloved wide mouth half pint.

They are a bit pricier than you’ll find in less populated areas of the country, but that’s ones of the facts of life in Manhattan. And if you’ve been hunting for those fabulous half gallon jars to hold your dry goods, you can buy a single here for less than $4. Definitely cheaper that fancy canisters and just as serviceable.

Fishs Eddy
889 Broadway at 19th Street
New York City, NY 10003
fishseddy.com

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Home Canning Discovery Kit Giveaway

Canning Discovery Kit

I had every intention of putting up an Urban Preserving post tonight about small batch apricot jam. But instead, I’ve spent the evening working myself into a frothy panic over the cookbook revisions I must turn in tomorrow by 3 pm. Who knew I could get myself so worked up over different styles of fruit measurement?

So I’ve decided to give myself a pass tonight, skip the recipe and move straight on to the giveaway that was going to go at the end of that post. The apricot jam will hold for a day (or two). I know you guys understand.

plastic canning rack

The nice folks at Ball have given me one of these nifty Home Canning Discovery Kits to give away to a lucky Food in Jars reader. These are great for beginning canners, as well as those of you who are fans of smaller batches. That green plastic basket can stand in for canning racks and large pots and will work in any pot that will hold it (and provide a bit of boiling room up at the top).

Here’s the “fine print”:

  1. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’ve canned most recently. If you have a blog and wrote about that particular canning endeavor, feel free to leave the link.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Thursday, July 21.
  3. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (apologies to my more far-flung readers).
  4. One entry per person, please.

Disclosure: Ball (aka Jarden Home Brands) has provided the canning kit for this giveaway. While they didn’t send me a canning kit (the pictures above were from a giveaway I ran last year in which I bought the kit myself), they did send me some of their new canning tools for review (that post will be up when I can wrap my brain around it). Though I didn’t actually express any opinions in this post, had I done so, they would have all been mine and would be totally uninfluenced by the box of goodies. You get the picture.

Skip the Plastic in the Bulk Section, Use Jars Instead

jars filled with bulk goods

I have been a bulk section shopper for most of my life. Growing up, my family was devoted to the bulk bins and it was always a great thrill when my mom would let me fill up the bags with rice or granola or grains. As I got older, it felt natural to keep buying oatmeal, dried fruit and beans that way. Of course, the bulk section has its inconveniences too. At Whole Foods, it’s far to easy to rip the plastic bags on the conveyor belt at check-out, leaving a trail of flour, sugar or quinoa all over the check stand. And, being that I’m not the most spatially minded person, I’ve never been good at determining exactly much product is going to fit in the assigned jar at home.

Lately, I’ve been taking clean, empty jars with me to Whole Foods for my bulk section purchases. This solves both issues of ripping bags and overestimating jar volume. It does require a bit more advanced planning than a spur-of-the-moment dash into the grocery store, but saves on plastic and frees me from some of those bulk section frustrations. I just pack up the jars and make a quick stop at customer service so they can weight the jars and make note of their tare prior to being filled, so that I’m not paying for the weight of the jars. Oh, and if I can just add a tip here, I recommend bringing a wide mouth funnel with you to the store. It will make your jar-filling life so much easier.

reusable bulk bags

In addition to my jars, I have a few of these very lightweight, reusable bulk bags that I try to bring with me each time I go to a store with a bulk section. They’re designed to hold bulk section food and be light enough so that they don’t need to have their weight subtracted from that of your food. They’re also washable, so I just toss them in the laundry after each use, to ensure I don’t mix nutritional yeast with my whole wheat pastry flour. These bags allow me to make a few bulk section impulse buys without reaching for a plastic bag, which I like.

I’m certain that there are some of you out there who have been shopping like this for years. However, it’s a very rare day that I see anyone else at my urban Philadelphia Whole Foods store with their own containers. Thing is, I think this is the direction more of us should be headed. It prevents waste by keeping plastic bags out of the system and means that you’re not buying more food that you can use (I confess that there were times in the very distant past when I would just trash the few spoonfuls of grain or fruit that made the storage jar overflow instead of bundling it up and saving it to use up). And it’s just one more chance to show off all those gorgeous jars I know so many of you have!

Let’s hear from you guys. Do you take reusable containers to the grocery store with you?

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